Delight as major conference to return to Blackpool

An artists impression of the proposed new conference centre for Blackpool
An artists impression of the proposed new conference centre for Blackpool
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One of Britain’s biggest union conferences is returning to Blackpool, it was revealed today.

The GMB general workers union will stage its annual congress at the resort’s £25m new conference centre at the Winter Gardens in June 2020.

It is the first major conference to sign up for the new venue due to open in May 2019, and will bring more than 1,000 delegates to the town over five days.

The GMB last held its conference in Blackpool in 2009 when then Prime Minister Gordon Brown was among the speakers.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be back in Blackpool in 2020 and looking forward to trying out the impressive new facilities.

“The GMB has spent many happy times in Blackpool over the years, so we’re really looking forward to bringing our congress to the Fylde Coast once again.

“Around 1,000 delegates, visitors, exhibitors and staff, as well as the nation’s press and TV, will be able to enjoy Blackpool’s wonderful hospitality during our five day event.”

The GMB also plans to use the proposed five star hotel set to be built at the Sands Venue on Central Promenade as its conference base.

It is due to open in autumn 2018.

Coun Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “This is fantastic news for Blackpool.

“We are delighted the GMB has chosen to host its annual congress in the resort, and I look forward to welcoming them here.

“The trade union movement have been great supporters of Blackpool over decades, and I’m sure this will be the first of many union conferences heading our way.

“This is the first national conference to be confirmed in our new, state-of-the-art conference centre, and I am delighted the GMB, recognising our investment, now feel the time is right to enjoy a return to the seaside.

“This demonstrates the real and growing confidence in the Blackpool offer and demonstrates that what we are doing here, is what organisers are looking for.

“With ongoing investment into the resort’s accommodation offer, there has certainly never been a better time for conference organisers to consider Blackpool for their upcoming meetings and events in the future.

“The conference will bring a further welcome boost to the local economy, helping us to attract new organisers to the resort in the future.”

Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, also welcomed the announcement.

She said: “This is marvelous news and hopefully it’s the first of many conferences to come back to Blackpool.

“June is a good time of year to get a boost, there will be a lot of delegates and they are staying a decent amount of time.

“There will be a good mix of delegates and Blackpool can offer accommodation to suit every pocket.

“It’s news that has been long awaited, and we’re looking forward to welcoming the GMB back.

“It will be up to us all to move up a gear and make sure these delegates want to bring their conference back the year after, and the year after that.”

Michael Williams, managing director at the Winter Gardens, said; “We are delighted the GMB has chosen to return to Blackpool for their annual conference.

“Their confidence in the resort is testimony to the ongoing investment not only in the Winter Gardens but also across the resort.”

Last year Coun Blackburn revealed one of the main political parties had also been in touch with the council about bringing its annual conference back to Blackpool.

The last one was in 2007 when the Conservatives met at the Winter Gardens.

The GMB is Britain’s third largest union, and in recent years has met in Plymouth, Bournemouth and Brighton.

Last year its main speaker was Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Work is due to begin later this year on building Blackpool’s new conference centre.